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LGBTQ youth summit looks at homelessness
by Matt Simonette

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Area youth, activists, service providers and other community members gathered May 2-5 for the 2014 Chicago Summit on LGBT Youth Homelessness, an event hosted by Windy City Times as a followup to its Generation Halsted series.

LGBT youths actively participated in the summit from planning through the final reporting out. Young people were the main participants in sessions held May 2, then were joined by other stakeholders May 3.

Additional photos from Saturday's workshops and sessions at the link: .

Additional photos from Monday's reporting out at the link: .

See a summary of summit results at .

On May 5, facilitators presented preliminary reports garnered from the findings of the previous days' sessions.

Session topics included housing, healthcare, public policy, legal issues, jobs and education and youths in systems. Windy City Times Publisher Tracy Baim was one of the summit's co-organizers, along with Kim Hunt of Affinity Community Services, Bonn Wade of Chicago House's TransLife Center, and youth advocates Trian Alexander, Keyshia Laymorris and Breezy Connor.. At the May 5 event, held at the Museum of Broadcast Communications, 560 N. State St., session facilitators identified a number of common concerns and suggestions youths spoke about. Journalist LZ Granderson was the emcee, with six presenters discussing the following areas: policy, legal, housing, health, youth in systems, and jobs and education.

Among the themes that emerged from the summit, according to organizers:

1 ) Youths are in need of more than a bed

2 ) Long-term relationship building is needed 3 ) Additional transparency and accountability from providers is needed

4 ) Visibility of the issue must be raised

5 ) Community assets can be repurposed for solutions

6 ) Youth must have a real voice 7 ) The community must hold itself accountable

8 ) Everything intersects A common thread throughout the sessions was a frustration in knowing what services and resources were actually available, and who qualified for what.

"We have to make the definition of 'youth' consistent across agencies … [not having that] creates a tremendous amount of confusion," said activist Nicole Sutton, who facilitated sessions on public policy.

Young people who qualify for assistance in one sector may be too old to do so in another. Few agencies and resources can act as a clearinghouse for youth services, meaning those youths' days are often spent having to do long hours of legwork to find food or a place to sleep. Indeed, many social service agencies have the same problems—some of their representatives complained of working in "silos," where little information is shared with other agencies, sometimes hindering even their most basic tasks from getting accomplished.

Another issue was helping youths who "aged out" of the system, reaching an age where they no longer qualified for any assistance. Young people across many income levels now depend on support from their family well into their twenties; most homeless teenagers do not have a support system in place once they turn 18 or 21 and are left in limbo when they are dropped from support systems abruptly.

"We need to send them out on the right foot," said Imani Rupert of Broadway Youth Center, facilitator of the Youth in Systems sessions.

Owen Daniel-McCarter of Transformative Justice Law Project facilitated sessions on legal issues, and said that participants were quite often centered on their experiences in Lakeview and encounters with police there.

"People were clearly traumatized and felt disrespected across the board by interactions with police," said McDaniel Carter, who added that participants suggested a full-time Chicago Police Department LGBT liaison as one of the possible solutions.

They were also eager to see decriminalization of sex work and drug use, two transgressions that often impeded young people's ability to find employment once they reached legal age.

"There are very few opportunities to have records expunged," said Rupert. "When they grow up these are things that stick with them and they have a difficult time finding a job that will get them a living wage."

Finding stable housing also presented a problem for youths. While the city does have myriad services available, they nevertheless are confusing and difficult to access, and obvious solutions are sometimes overlooked thanks to bureaucratic and political hurdles. According to activist Lara Brooks, facilitator of housing sessions, a potential solution are "hosted housing" programs wherein community members can provide space to a youth and their family.

"We don't need buildings with 250 units," said Brooks. "We need homes, where young people can have flexibility." But Bonn Wade of TransLife Center noted that it has been difficult to obtain funding for such programs.

"We've been in front of every politician under the sun," said Wade. "We don't fit neatly in with the current requests for proposals." Health concerns also posed serious challenges. Despite Medicaid expansion and implementation of the Affordable Care Act, youths often don't know where they can turn for medical issues. Luis Roman of Association of Latino/as Motivating Action said that AIDS and STIs were not first and foremost on youths' minds during the healthcare sections, and that they were often concerned about accessing wellness and child care programs. Granderson, who was Roman's co-facilitator, added that participants were frustrated at having to frequently come to the North Side to access the services.

Angelica Ross of the TransLife Center's TransWorks project, facilitated the jobs and education discussions, and pointed to the additional barriers experienced in employment by transgender women of color. She especially promoted entrepreneurial and LGBTQ small business owner involvement as keys to the solution to more employment options. Other special speakers appearing at the summit included Jama Shelton, Forty to None Project Director of the NYC-based True Colors Fund: activist Monica James; state Rep. Greg Harris; John Pfeiffer of the Chicago Department of Family Support Services; James Cunningham of Housing & Urban Development; and Juliana Harms of Illinois Department of Children and Family Services. YEPP, the Young Empowerment Performance Project, performed each of the three days of the summit.

Windy City Times will post findings from the summits plenary sessions, and post videos from keynote addresses, as well as additional reports from summit discussions.

The foundations and groups assisting Windy City Times with the summit were: The Crossroads Fund, True Colors Fund, Polk Bros Foundation, Alphawood Foundation Chicago, Liz and Eric Lefkofsky, Pierce Family Foundation, Lehman-Stamm Family Fund, Woods Fund of Chicago, Heartland Human Care Services, Astraea Lesbian Foundation for Justice, Affinity Community Services, Lambda Legal, AIDS Foundation of Chicago, Chicago House, Howard Brown Health Center, The Association of Latinos/as Motivating Action, LM Catering French Caterer, Orbitz, and . The venues donating their facilities are: Ann and Robert H. Lurie Children's Hospital, the University of Illinois at Chicago Gender and Sexuality Center, and the Museum of Broadcast Communications.

Links to related coverage:

Forty to None director talks about bringing resources together at the link: .

Summit panel talks government efforts on youth homelessness at the link: .

* * * * *

VIDEOS from Closing Day:

Windy City Times Youth Summit: Tracy and Casey On Homeless Film at the link: .

Windy City Times Youth Summit: YEPP Performs at the link: .

Windy City Times Youth Summit: Imani Rupert, Youth in Systems at the link: .

Windy City Times Youth Summit: Luis Roman, Health at the link: .

Windy City Times Youth Summit: Lara Brooks, Housing at the link: .

Windy City Times: Angelica Ross, Job Training & Education at the link: .

Windy City Times Youth Summit: Owen Daniel McCarter, Legal at the link: .

Windy City Times Youth Summit: Nicole Sutton, Public Policy at the link: .

Windy City Times Youth Summit Final Day: Breezi, LZ at the link: .

Windy City Times Youth Summit: Tracy Baim Closing Remarks at the link: .

VIDEOS from Youth Day:

Windy City Times Youth Summit: Keyshia Laymorris and Jamie Frazier at the link: .

Windy City Times Youth Summit: Monica James presentation at the link: / .

Windy City Times Youth Summit: Shawne Hinkle interview at the link: .

Windy City Times Youth Summit: Shaunquel Baker interview at the link: .

Windy City Times Youth Summit: Keyshia Laymorris at the link: .

Windy City Times Youth Summit: Robert Vacha interview at the link: .

Windy City Times Youth Summit: Monica James interview at the link: .

Windy City Times Youth Summit: David Cal interview at the link: .

Windy City Times Youth Summit: Breezi Connor interview at the link: .

* * * * *

Also see Windy City Times' 2012-2013 Generation Halsted series on youth homelessness at the following links:

Queer street youth need OUR love Frank McAlpin 2013-01-09 .

Generation Halsted: Recommendations 2013-01-02 .

Teen Living Programs serve homeless youth on South Side Jamie Anne Royce 2012-12-26 .

Walking while trans in Chicago Kate Sosin 2012-12-26 .

Chanel Winn DeCarlo, 28 years old, Auburn-Gresham Bill Healy 2012-12-26 .

Vulnerable LGBT youth have limited options for justice Bill Healy 2012-12-26 .

Non-affirming church offers inviting space for youth Bill Healy 2012-12-19 .

Center security and licensing at issue Bill Healy 2012-12-19 .

Center on Halsted offers youth services...but not without controversy Kate Sosin 2012-12-19

LGBTQ Host Home Program: a different approach to youth homelessness Kate Sosin 2012-12-12

The Crib creates safe haven for LGBTQ youth Erica Demarest 2012-12-12 .

Nomi Michaels Devereaux: A year on the streets at 17 remembered Kate Sosin 2012-12-12 .

Chicago homelessness, by the numbers 2012-12-05 .

Reaching Beyond Chicago: YPS goes national Kate Sosin, Windy City Times 2012-12-05 .

Jamal, 18 years old, Maywood Erica Demarest, Windy City Times 2012-12-05 .

The numbers nationally 2012-12-05 .

Beyond Lakeview's youth controversies, a snapshot of New York Kate Sosin 2012-12-05 .

Overnight in Lakeview: A timelin 2012-11-28 .

Lakeview pastor talks 'love work' Erica Demarest 2012-11-28

Z's Church Erica Demarest 2012-11-28 .

'Beauty isn't everything, but it does take you a hell of a ways' Erica Demarest 2012-11-21 .

Friends like brothers: Brian and Eric Kate Sosin 2012-11-21 .

Stormy Monroe, 22 years old Identifies as transgender Kate Sosin 2012-11-21 .

Photo essay: Overnight in Boystown Bill Healy 2012-11-21 .

The Priest of Boystown Kate Sosin, Windy City Times 2012-11-21 .

INFOGRAPHICS: Survey Demographics 2012-11-14

LGBTQ YOUTH: Generation Halsted, Our Future, Our Selves Tracy Baim, Windy City Times 2012-11-14 .

INFOGRAPHICS: The Youth Experience 2012-11-14 .

Generation Halsted: An Overview, LGBTQ Youth Series from Windy City Times, by Kate Sosin, Windy City Times 2012-11-14 .

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